J500 Media and the Environment

Satisfaction Through Learning

What I expected to learn, and what I did learn in this course, couldn’t have been more different. I came into this course expecting to learn about ways in which we can be more environmentally responsible, like recycling. In fact, we didn’t learn much about that at all. We discussed how food impacts the environment. Not only did we learn about general knowledge of environmental food issues, like the difference between “local” and “organic,” but we contributed to the community as well.

This semester we were able to work the newly-formed Douglas County Food Policy Council for our service learning project. For me, this was the best part of the class. I am in another service learning course this semester, and the satisfaction that comes from helping someone in the community while learning, is tremendous. When you are able to have a hands-on experience, you learn so much more than you could by reading a book. Hands-on experiences help you connect and see how things work and impact your life.

Through this experience, I was able to learn about the impact of local foods to many local farmers and KU students. I didn’t realize its impact on so many people. Before this class, local foods didn’t really cross my mind. I knew they existed, but I didn’t realize they were that big of an issue. I thought eating them was something people did nonchalantly. From this experience, I realize it’s larger than that; for some people, it is their life.

Through my interviews, I also learned about and toured a hoop house. A hoop house is a plastic-roofed greenhouse. Photo Courtesy of: http://www.growingformarket.com.

This experience impacted me the most because of our involvement with the community though. After all is said and done, I feel satisfied knowing that I contributed to the community, and that all my hard work will pay off for someone else too, not just me (as compared to a non-service learning course where I’m just earning a grade for myself). It makes me feel good that I am helping someone else out.

-Jackie McClellan


Celebrities Going Green…Or Are They?

Last week, I was browsing the Internet, and came across one of ABC’s Stars Go Green videos. In these videos, they feature celebrities in their own homes who are going green.

These days so many stars are claiming to go green. However, after viewing the above video, I started to rethink the concept of celebrities going green. I began to wonder how many of them are actual leading green lives themselves.

It’s easy for someone to say they’re going green, but the truth is, that not all of them practice what they preach. There are many stars out there who say they support protecting the environment, but when you look at their personal lives, they are not following through with their word. All these stars are contributing to ‘greenwashing.’

Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, John Travolta, Natalie Portman, and Madonna are all among the culprits. Many of them preach for a greener environment, but when they’re off flying their own private jets and “using synthetic materials in [their] vegan line of footwear,” it’s hard to believe them. All of their practices are not supporting the environment.

But what is prompting these stars to greenwash? Last semester I took a “Current Issues in Journalism” course at KU. In this course, we discussed a lot of these same issues. We talked about how celebrities are used to promote popularity of certain products. Because consumers idolize certain celebrities, they may be tempted to buy a certain product if their favorite celebrity is using it.

As a result, celebrities might catch on to this, and take their popularity for advantage. They may think that because they’re popular, people will believe whatever they say. And this is what is happening with the “going green” trend. It is quite popular now, so the celebrities want say they support the cause, even if their actions don’t confirm it. Bottom line, they want to make themselves look good, so they can maintain public approval.

Whatever their reason, I would ask these celebrities who are not following through with their words, to please step aside and make room for those who are going green. There is no need for those who aren’t contributing to the issue; you’re not positively impacting the environment. I would rather hear from the celebrities who are, even if that means fewer.

-Jackie McClellan

Healthy Food for the Poor

Before I took my Media and the Environment journalism class here at KU, I had a very strong opinion that poor people couldn’t have access to healthy foods because of their limited income. Over the course of the semester, we have studied the impact food has on our society, and how the media is portraying that. Throughout the course, I began to think more critically about food than I ever have before.

This analysis has opened me to see new perspectives and opinions. From this, I have come to realize that there might be more than one side to an issue. And this is certainly true about the common debate of healthy food access for the poor. Since the beginning of the course, my view on this has slightly changed. While I’m still not completely convinced, I have become more supportive of the idea that poor people can and should eat healthier foods at a low cost. I also think society should help support this idea, instead of dismissing it all together, like I did.

After doing some research, I found that there are plenty of tips out there to guide poor people on how to eat healthy. Some of the main suggestions, among others, include: utilizing coupons, sales and bulk shopping, making larger portions so you can have leftovers for other meals, avoiding processed foods, shopping with a grocery list so you only buy the foods you need, and buying more herbs and spices, and seasonal foods, which are generally less expensive, to spice up simple foods.

In addition to grocery stores, many farmers' markets are now accepting food stamps so poor people have easier access to healthy foods. Photo Courtesy of: http://www.igougo.com.

I think this was what modified my thinking the most. Before this point, many classmates had disagreed with my earlier opinions, but no one was telling me how or why poor people could eat healthy foods. It wasn’t until I saw this article that I started to look at the situation in a whole new light.

Even though this proposal will only affect the poor people directly, I think society can play a role in it as well. I think the government is doing a good job with their involvement in it already, with programs like SNAP, which provides healthy food to low-income families, but I think they could play an even larger role in the process.

Some ways in which society and the government could play a larger role in the process could include: placing taxes on foods with low nutritional value to subsidize foods with high nutritional value, link the purchasing power of food stamps with the nutritional value of the food (such as, one dollar of junk food could be worth two dollars of fruits and vegetables), and educate more people on how to eat healthier foods for a lower price. I don’t think many people know if, and how, they can eat healthy foods for a low price. If we educate them on how they could do that, I believe more people would take part in healthy eating.

Although I am not completely convinced that this idea is feasible, I am willing to give it more consideration. I think there is a possibility that poor people can eat healthy foods, and I don’t think society should dismiss the idea altogether.

-Jackie McClellan

SunChips Turn Compostable

When I was growing up, my dad always had a composting pile in the backyard; so I’ve always been interested in the concept of composting. When my friend told me about the green efforts Frito-Lay is doing with their SunChips, I was intrigued to learn more. I found out that I support what they are doing, and I think their green efforts are going pay off in the long run.

The new SunChips compostable bags will be released on Earth Day of 2010. Photo Courtesy of: http://www.greenr.ca

Just recently, SunChips announced that they will be introducing eco-friendly compostable chip bags. These bags will be made from plants, so it will be completely compostable. When placed in a compost pile, the bags will break down in 14 weeks.

The bags are made from plant-based polylactic acid (PLA). And because of this, the results are earth-friendly. Not only will they reduce the waste in landfills, but less fossil fuels will be used to make the bag.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Maybe. The only discouraging part to the new bags is that they produce a louder sound when handling them. SunChips said that is because of the materials used to make the bag. The plant-based products in the bags have different sound properties than the old bags.

Despite the louder noise, I still think these compostable bags are a smart idea. They help protect the Earth, and save on unnecessary waste. It doesn’t take that long to eat a bag of chips, so the amount of time spent holding the bag is significantly less than the benefits that will be gained. This may just be a start, but it’s a huge step at least. Maybe after SunChips’ efforts, other chip companies will follow.

-Jackie McClellan

Keep an Eye Out On Comfort Foods

When I was growing up, I loved pasta. That was my favorite food to eat, and I ate quite a bit of it. After I came to college and was on my own, I started to notice a trend—I unintentionally didn’t eat as much pasta as I used to.  Our ‘comfort foods’ have strong roots to our past (memories, people, or feelings); I think this connection is an important element to have in our lives. While I think this aspect is important, I think we need to watch how much we rely on these foods.

Some of the most popular comfort foods in the country include: pie, cake, ice cream, burgers, macaroni and cheese, pizza, chips, and candy, among others. From the http://www.epicurious.com website.

When we were kids, we all had certain foods our parents fed us quite often. And the ones we liked became our ‘comfort foods’. I think this really shapes who we are. When we move out and live on our own, these comfort foods are still a part of us and our diet, intentionally or unintentionally. The frequency might differ, but it will still be present in our lives.

We return to this comfort food because it reminds us our childhood. We long to return to a part our past, so we eat familiar foods that bring us back there. I think this comfort food is important for us to have, so we can go back to our childhood when we feel the need. If we are in an uncomfortable or stressed situation, that food will remind us of home, and make us feel more comfortable.

The ability to return to familiar surroundings is important in the psychology of one’s mind. If one feels very uncomfortable or stressed, they could go into a depression. It is important to have these options available, because it can prevent these feelings.

However, comfort food can also negatively affect one’s mood as well. It is quite common for people who are stressed or sad to eat more and less healthy comfort foods than those who are happy. We could go overboard on how much of that food we eat, which could result in weight gain and guilt.

To avoid these negative effects, there are many ways to control the urges of comfort foods. To control these urges you can: practice patience before eating comfort foods, limit your intake and surroundings of comfort foods, work alongside a friend who is facing the same dilemma, and limit, or eliminate completely, the amount of money you will spend on comfort foods.

So while comfort foods could return us to happy place in time, we need to be careful of how much of it we eat. Because we are sad or uncomfortable, we could eat too much of that comfort food, and be right back where we started.

-Jackie McClellan

Third World Countries Being Sustainable?

As I sit here in a Bahaman internet café, I recall a conversation we had last night on my dad’s sailboat about The Bahamas being sustainable. He was telling us about how he had been talking to someone who had said that what the Bahamans needed to do is be sustainable instead of continually using their resources.Third world countires like The Bahamas are not fit to become a sustainable country.

Third world countires like The Bahamas are not fit to become a sustainable country.

When I heard this, I thought it would interesting to investigate this further. At first I thought this was a good idea, but then I began to wonder how plausible it is in a third world country to be sustainable. After further investigation, I have concluded that the Bahamas, or any other third world country for that matter, is not fit to be sustainable.

I say this because I believe it is out of reach for them. With the limited resources they do have, it can be hard for them to think about being sustainable, let alone keep the resources available for future generations.

Not only that, but many people in The Bahamas probably don’t care or worry about this problem. This article discusses what sustainability is like in third world countries. They are more worried about fulfilling their basic needs, like food, not of the future.

I did find it interesting that The Bahamans as a whole are trying to be sustainable though. In June of 2006 they held a conference on tourism and sustainable development. As this Bahaman discusses, they were not fit to host this; they held it in the most expensive hotel in the area. I don’t think they completely understand what it takes to be sustainable. She also discusses that the country is not sustainable because their tourism industry is revolving around the tourists, not involving what the Bahamans want.

I also found an article that talks about how The College of the Bahamas has started promoting sustainability. They go around to other schools and encourage others to be sustainable. They also intend to start a Small Island Sustainable program in the college, where students can earn a degree in related programs.

There are others who are suggesting ways in which Bahamans can be sustainable.

While the small progress and intent of sustainability of the Bahamans is great, I don’t think it is a plausible idea for them. They don’t have the resources available that can help them carry out a full-on sustainable country. I do applaud their efforts, but I think they are in over their heads. I also think they need to be more educated on the issue before they beginning implementing such a large program.

-Jackie McClellan

Farming Practices Transition Over Time

I have relatives who have farms in Iowa. They have always been a part of our family’s traditions. It was a tradition for me, my sister and my cousin to go visit one of the farms, and spend a weekend riding horses. On the other farm, we always used to have family reunions down there. It has been an important part of my family, almost like a bonding experience. It is a way for us to all come together.

My first instinct of the quote “Farming is for the rich and the desperate” was that it was untrue. I say this because farming, from my experiences at least, seems to be more like a family practice. A lot of the farmers I know have been farmers because the farm has been in the family for awhile, and they want to keep it going. They do it because they want to, and it’s something they enjoy. They are average-day citizens, and many of them don’t have a ton of money.

It also didn’t make sense to me that rich people would farm because they are desperate; I don’t even know what they would be desperate for. If they are desperate to say they grow their own food, I think they would opt out for paying someone else to grow their own food for them.

The transformation of farming.

However, after thinking about it for awhile, I realize that my philosophy is old fashioned. As technology has improved, big corporations are starting to take over the farming industry, and now own a majority of the industry. As a result, many of the family farms are going out of business.

I can understand how now the trend is that “farming IS for the rich and the desperate.”  The only thing the corporations care about are the profits, so they produce much more than the average family farmer does. And because of this, their profits do increase, but at what expense? Farm Sanctuary says that the industrial farming techniques harm animals, humans, and the environment.

So is it too late to change these practices? Some think the only way to produce enough for everybody is through industrial/corporation farming. Others think that the local food trend is just starting to take off, and it will become strong enough to save family farming. The Sustainable Table website I mentioned earlier describes these beliefs. They mention ways in which you can help save these family farms.

Personally, I don’t think family farms can last much longer. The farming corporations obviously have a large impact on the farming industry, and I think they will eventually take it all over, or almost all of it. People are concerned about money these days, and I think the major corporations will do whatever it takes to get that. In addition, I don’t think the amount of food family farms can produce is enough to feed everyone. Unfortunately it’s sad, but it’s reality.

-Jackie McClellan